Yes – talking with your teen about dating and sexuality IS uncomfortable.
It’s uncomfortable for everyone involved, but your teen’s future ambitions and quality of life may depend upon you having some form of “The Talk” with your teen. Many parents put off these talks with their children throughout their lives. Then, suddenly, there is a teenager in the house with raging hormones. What’s a parent to do?
Good enough parents seize the opportunity when their child naturally expresses interest in sex and sexuality. For example, when I was 10 years-old, my family was driving to Chesaning, MI where my Aunt and Uncle lived. We drove by a yard where I spotted 2 dogs. One was on top of the other from behind and making funny in and out motions. I asked, “Mommy, what are those two dogs doing over there?” She responded, “They are playing.” That was the end of the conversation but my curiosity was not satisfied.
There are many moments throughout a child’s life where sex and sexuality become interesting. It is important for parents to respond at these times in a way the child can understand. These mini-talks satisfy the child’s curiosity and they move on to another interest. By waiting until adolescence parents fail to provide a foundation for their teen to understand their own sexuality and therefore learn to make decisions that are in their best interest as opposed to immediate gratification.
Teenagers are well equipped to practice “playing” like dogs .
Teenagers are built for sex and they are not shooting blanks. Teen bodies are adrift in a sea of hormones what scares the bejesus out of most parents. Most experts agree, the best approach to sex education is ongoing parental discussion with children throughout their lives. Avoiding these lessons can lead to, who know what? I don’t want to think about it. It’s amazing what parents will do to avoid the discomfort of talking with their teen about sex.
Some parents buy pornography for their teenage children, others buy prostitutes for them; all with the best of intentions. Sadly, most parents of teens just don’t talk about sex. In my family it was See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Speak No Evil. Nobody said boo to me about sex. My parents didn’t. That’s for sure, did your parents? Probably not. All of this non-talking about sex leaves teens, for the most part on their own when it comes to dating and sexuality.
My father had a small collection of Playboy magazines…
hidden away in a side table near his “Lazy Boy”. When I was 12, Playboy brought vivid images of beautiful women to my imagination, but what was a 12 year-old boy to do with these images information? Talking with my parents was NOT an option so I turned to my peers to learn about sex. They didn’t know any more than I did, but we had many animated discussion about sex and what it would be like, feeding our ignorance with more ignorance and stupidity. Then, in 7th grade my school loaded all of the 7th & 8th graders on buses and drove us 20 some miles to Flint, MI, where we were filed into separate rooms. Boys on the left and girls on the right.
While there, in the safety of our own gender, the adults presented the details of human sexuality. There were lectures, slides and videos all explaining the process of intercourse, fertilization, gestation and birth (of dogs). My parents lied! The dogs were NOT playing! All of us quietly sat there, in shock and mesmerized at the same time. As a 12 year-old boy, I was disgusted, but secretly titillated, as were the rest of the young men. I don’t know what the girls saw, but I assume it was the same kind of thing. This class must have frightened the chaperoning adults because as we boarded the busses for the trip back home; it was boys on the left and girls on the right.
This was 1963 in Montrose, Michigan. Times have changed, or have they? Sex education continues to be just as controversial as it ever has been. Parents are still not talking with their kids about dating and sexuality. Parents refuse permission for their kids to attend sex education classes based upon cultural or religious reasons. And schools are skittish about what to teach kids out of fear being sued.
One thing is clearly different, the influence of the media on teen dating and sexuality.
According to Teen Health and the Media Americans spend 1/3 of their free time watching television. Children between the ages of 9-14 spend 20% of their waking hours watching TV. Here is some of what they are seeing:
- Sexual intercourse is depicted or strongly implied in one of every 10 shows on TV.
- Two out of every three shows on TV include sexual content.
- Then there’s the internet with just a few keystrokes and your teen can be in the middle of a wild sex orgy on their smartphones.
What’s a parent to do? I suggest you believe in your teen. Trust in their natural ability to do what is right for them. Know that your teen will make mistakes, but these mistakes will lead to new insights and new abilities. Let go of your fear for them. Fear hobbles your teen in their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. When it comes to teen dating and sexuality, your teen is already part of a steady decline of teen pregnancies over the past 50 years. There is good stuff already going on and I’m not here to tell you what to do. I’m here to help you be what you need to be for your teen to feel safe enough to talk with you about dating and sexuality. Yes they still need you. Make sure you are there when that happens.
Practice these 10 ways of being and you will become safe in the eyes of your teen:
- Be Available
- Be Open
- Be Non-Judgmental
- Be Understanding
- Be Accepting
- Be Loving
- Be Forgiving
- Be Kind
- Be Calm
- Be Empathetic
Practice being any one of these whenever you are in the presence of your teen and it will more than compensate for your less-than-honorable moments. Practice all of these and before you know it, your teen will seek your counsel long before they act.
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